Everything about the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal is shocking.
From the number of alleged victims, to the high-profile celebrities who say they were abused by the Hollywood heavyweight, everything about this story is stunning.
What isn't shocking, however, is that the entertainment industry, whose members pride themselves on their supposed courage, is full of cowards.
As details of Weinstein's behavior continue to emerge — and they are getting worse by the day — one question continues to overshadow the rest: How was this allowed to go on for so long when so many people apparently knew about it?
By some accounts, Weinstein's reported abuse dates back to at least the late 1980s. These same accounts also say the producer's vile behavior was well-known within the industry. So well-known, in fact, that it was reportedly considered Hollywood's biggest "open secret." His behavior was even the subject of a sly punchline in 2013 during the Academy Award nominee announcements.
Big laughs in 2013 when MacFarlane said of Best Supporting Actress nominees: "You no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Weinstein." pic.twitter.com/DaJNnJhfX1— T. Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) October 10, 2017
The NBC comedy "30 Rock" also made multiple references to Weinstein's apparently infamous debauchery. But here we are in 2017, and the major league producer and Democratic donor is only now being made to answer for his actions.
It's one thing for the victims to remain silent, usually because they feel intimidated. That is common for the abused, and you won't find any criticism of Weinstein's targets here. But what about the many celebrities and Hollywood operatives who were in on the joke, who have come forward since the damn burst to allege that most of the industry knew about Weinstein? Actors knew. Actresses knew. Other producers knew. People in the press knew.
Yet, Weinstein went on abusing women, unabated, for several years.
The obvious takeaway from this is that the entertainment industry is full of cowards. Dozens and dozens of people who were not victims themselves but knew, and were nonetheless too scared to do or say anything about Weinstein. And some are probably still too scared to speak up.
We're talking about NBC News, which reportedly passed on the Weinstein scoop earlier this year when one of its journalists, Ronan Farrow, presented them with first-hand testimony from several of his alleged victims. NBC didn't just pass on the story. The network allegedly went to great lengths to kill it. NBC's resistance to Farrow's reporting was so great, in fact, that he eventually shopped his story to the New Yorker, which published his bombshell article this week.
We're talking about Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, who had all Weinstein jokes removed from last Saturday's show, explaining later that it was a "New York thing."
We're talking about the late-night hosts who are brave when it comes to easy targets like Republicans and conservatives, but too scared to go after a guy who bankrolls movies.
CBS's Stephen Colbert, for example, is unafraid to give President Trump the "sieg heil" (how edgy!), but when it comes to crossing a producer who exerts a great deal of influence on the entertainment industry, he is suddenly tight-lipped. It took the late-night comedian, who, by the way, cut his teeth roasting former President George W. Bush to his face, several days before he went anywhere near the Weinstein story. When Colbert eventually got around to commenting on the sordid tale, it was to refer to the Hollywood honcho as "a bad guy."
Keep on speaking truth to power, my man.
NBC's own weeknight funnyman, Seth Myers, stands by his decision to go more than 24 hours without mentioning the biggest scandal in his industry, telling the Hollywood Reporter this week that, "I was not prepared to talk about something as tricky as sexual assault in a way that felt appropriate that quickly."
Hollywood's denizens love patting each other on the back for their supposed courage. Awards shows in the glitz business aren't so much about the craft nowadays as they are about who will make the "bravest" speech advancing whatever political fad is popular at the moment.
Last year, for example, several entertainers won high praise for openly criticizing Trump during the Oscars. Good job, everyone. You all took on the least popular commander in chief in recent decades during an awards ceremony hosted by an industry where he is universally reviled. But speak out against a man who can win you one of those naked gold statues? That's a bridge too far for most of Hollywood's outspoken activists. Real risk-takers, the lot of you.
In regards to the overwhelming silence from otherwise politically engaged comedians and actors, Bob McManus writes in City Journal that, "Nobody reasonably expects political balance in a comedy sketch—how boring would that be?—and it is generally understood that Hollywood, and the media in general, descended into a progressive sinkhole long ago. So ignoring Weinstein's agony is not surprising, ideologically—not to mention his storied ability to vaporize careers. There's no appetite in show biz to speak truth to that kind of power."
He added: "Of course, now that the great man lies harpooned and helpless, the carrion-feeders will gather. Soon enough, the late-night types will find their voices—as did Colbert, tepidly, Monday night. But those who depend on entertainers for political news—a distressingly large number of viewers, apparently—would do well to remember the weekend when one of America's premier powerbrokers stood exposed as an abuser of women and the gurus suddenly had no words."
Hollywood is home to some of the worst cowards imaginable, and the Weinstein scandal has merely put that truth into greater focus.